Kaua‘i falls from top slot in seat-belt usage

Kaua‘i has fallen from the top of the heap in terms of percentage of vehicle occupants who wear their seat belts, according to a University of Hawai‘i at Manoa study.

Where Kauaians and visitors used to be the best in Hawai‘i in terms of percentages of those buckling up, Kaua‘i drivers are now fourth among the four counties, the UH statistics show.

Still, Hawai‘i’s seat-belt usage is officially tops in the nation, following this summer’s national “Click It Or Ticket” campaign.

Hawai‘i’s seat-belt use was measured at 95.3 percent, beating Washington state, which came in second at 95.2 percent.

The national average for buckling up is 82 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the final numbers recently.

Officials at the University of Hawai‘i conducted a survey to determine statewide and county seat-belt use: Maui County, 97.2 percent; O‘ahu, 95 percent; Big Island, 94.9 percent; and Kaua‘i, 94.7 percent.

“The No. 1 ranking is an achievement to be proud of. But, more importantly, this will hopefully lead to more lives being saved on the road in the event of an accident,” said state Department of Transportation Director Rod Haraga.

“We’d like to thank the public, all four county police departments, as well as our other partners, involved in this year’s campaign.” Officers of the four county police departments issued 2,483 seat-belt citations during the May-23-to-June-5 “Click It or Ticket” campaign, Haraga said.

The effort focused on the largest group of unbuckled passengers and drivers, those ages 18 to 25, and drivers of pick-up trucks, he said.

Police also enforced child-restraint laws, and ticketed drivers if children were not restrained properly in child safety seats in the back seat, said Haraga.

National statistics have shown that the use of seat belts is the single most effective act that drivers can do to protect themselves in traffic crashes, he continued.

Of the 85 people who died in motor-vehicle accidents in 2004 in Hawai‘i, about half of them were not wearing their seat belts.

Hawai‘i’s current seat-belt laws require buckling up of all front-seat occupants, as well as passengers in the back seat under 18. Seat-belt violators will be assessed a $92 fine.

State law also requires children under 4 years old to ride in a child-safety seat.

The Click It or Ticket campaign combines the efforts of those from the state departments of Transportation, Health and Education; the four county police departments representing Honolulu, Kaua‘i, the Big Island and Maui counties; University of Hawai‘i ; the Federal Highway Administration; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association; local business and religious leaders; and Safe Community coalitions.

Officials in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under the U.S. Department of Transportation, oversaw and funded the national campaign.

For more information about the Click It or Ticket campaign, please contact the Safe Community Office toll-free at 274-3141, then dialing 7-6300# after the recorded message, or visit the state Department of Transportation Web site, www.state.hi.us/dot.publicaffairs.

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